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Miramichi Transit expands hours, ends lunchtime break in service

Miramichi Transit, which operates seven buses in the city, is expanding its hours of service.  (Submitted by Miramichi Transit - image credit)
Miramichi Transit, which operates seven buses in the city, is expanding its hours of service. (Submitted by Miramichi Transit - image credit)

Bus riders in Miramichi, N.B., are getting later hours and will no longer have to deal with bus services stopping for an hour every day for lunch breaks.

"Obviously, it wasn't the best idea," Miramichi Transit manager Jason Babineau said of the lunchtime pause. "But now that we've started to grow and we've gotten the backing of the city and we're able to do that, it was a very easy transition to extend that service."

Buses will now run an hour later each day after the transit authority received feedback from riders and the community.

As the city grows, Babineau said, ridership has too. Last year saw more than 110,000 trips on Miramichi Transit, compared to 60,000 trips in 2019.

"We are still a small transit system, so our drivers all know probably 80 per cent of the passengers by name," Babineau said.

Babineau said the growth has come from workers, community college and high school students using transit more.

Jason Babineau, Executive Director of Miramichi Transit, said ridership has grown dramatically in recent years.
Jason Babineau, Executive Director of Miramichi Transit, said ridership has grown dramatically in recent years.

Jason Babineau, executive director of Miramichi Transit, said ridership has grown dramatically in recent years. (Submitted by Miramichi Transit)

He say the latest changes, which took effect on Monday, are "baby steps" and part the transit service's five-year strategic plan.

Before the end of the summer, there will be new routes added and faster service on some lines. Transit is also looking into the feasibility of on-demand services during off-hours and electrification of the bus fleet.

These changes "have been a long time coming and transit hasn't been keeping up with the growth of the city, and we've figured out that it's time it did that," Babineau said.

Miramichi Transit's website says it was founded in 2009, and offers service to downtown Miramichi and the areas of Chatham, Chatham Head, Newcastle and Douglastown. There are seven buses running on three routes from Monday through Saturday.

More changes, such as new routes and faster service, are coming this Summer, Babineau said.
More changes, such as new routes and faster service, are coming this Summer, Babineau said.

More changes, such as new routes and faster service, are coming this summer, Babineau said. (Submitted by Miramichi Transit)

Transit's dedicated riders are used to a system that "may not be the best," Babineau said, and these changes will improve service for them.

"On the other side of that, we have people that maybe didn't ride the bus because it wasn't quite convenient enough or didn't do what they needed it to do, and those are the people that we want to bring on as new riders."

Babineau said the changes help the community of Miramichi as a whole by cutting pollution, reducing traffic and promoting economic growth.

Miramichi Transit is unique, he said, because it's not part of city government but instead is a non-profit organization that receives most of its funding from the city.

Babineau said the changes will require more resources, "but I think ... it will more than return on investment."

Mayor supports transit development

Mayor Adam Lordon is also a board member of Miramichi Transit, and said he's excited about the changes.

"Certainly as the community has begun to grow again in the last few years for the first time in decades, transit has become more important than ever," Lordon said.

He said transit is well used, especially by students, seniors and newcomers to the city. People who are moving to Miramichi from larger cities with transit come to expect it, so he's glad the city is increasing its reliability.

Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon is calling on the provincial government to take a leadership role when it comes to permanent shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon is calling on the provincial government to take a leadership role when it comes to permanent shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Mayor Adam Lordon is a board member of Miramichi Transit and said he's supportive of its expansion. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

"Where it was maybe not something that was part of the culture as much even a decade ago here, it certainly is very much part of the culture now."

The fact that transit is separate from municipal government has its pros and cons, Lordon said, but as a system that's worked for the city, it's not something he's looking at changing.

In his earlier years in office after being elected in 2015, Lordon said council would debate the merits of transit every year and consider if it was even worthwhile.

"And I can tell you that's not the case anymore," he said.

"We understand that it's crucial, especially in a community like ours that's geographically large but doesn't have a ton of population density."